A good article called 'In
Love With Disaster', which accuses capitalism of producing poverty alongside
wealth, alienation for all, periodic destructions of productive capital,
I didn't get the sense that this was what the article was about ...
and, of late, some lefties who content themselves with predicting imminent
systemic self-destruction without lending themselves the credibility of
first producing detailed and coherent explanations for our apparently
expansionary times hitherto, or explaining why hard times should indeed turn
society left when the evidence since the war has been that such social
shifts have attended the good times more often than the bad.
Rather, this is the major thrust of his article.
Now this might well be an outrageous load of bollocks, Jerry
Not at all. Indeed, I think it is a valid criticism of many on the Left
who seem to think that every decline in GDP, increase in the trade
deficit, the rate of unemployment, or even daily declines in stock prices
is an indication of impending doom. Not only is such a perspective wrong
on the face of it, but it is rather a odd perspective for Marxists to hope
for and rejoice over the possibility of another depression -- a depression
in which the lives of millions of working people would be grievously
harmed. It, indeed, reminds me of the pessimism of Raptis (Pablo) who
believed that socialism would arise out of the ashes of thermonuclear
- all the more
likely for the fact that I find it utterly compelling - but it's all we have
to go with while we await your own analysis and guidance. Time to step
forth, Augustus-like to your Philippi, Jerry! What do YOU reckon?
So, it is "all" we have to go on, is it? C'mon, Rob: even Doug might
appreciate a more critical stance towards his writing.
My perspective, in a nutshell, is that while there is a lot of validity to
what he writes, Doug bends the stick too much in the opposite direction.
Thus, he replaces the "optimism" of those who anticipate an immanent
depression, with the pessimism that the capitalist state has shown that it
can overcome crises and maintain social-economic stability. The
"ultra-leftism" of the former and the reformism of the later are opposite
sides of the same coin. To overcome this, what is needed is a *theory*
that explains late capitalism rather than a set of empirical/historical
observations *alone*. And, Doug's article is woefully lacking in giving
any theoretical explanation for this subject.
Here's the article (as I submitted it - there may have been minor
editing changes in the published version, but I didn't do a
word-by-word comparison). Judge for yourself.
Thanks for making the article available: I've read a lot worse.
Of course, I note that you side-stepped the whole issue of _LM_ -- a
magazine that I recall you were rather sharply critical of in the past.
Is my memory failing me or isn't that correct? What happened to change
your perspective on _LM_?
Now that you have taken on the role of being a tragic-comic figure, you
are almost likeable. You would be still more likeable if you weren't an
In love with disaster
by Doug Henwood
Back in 1992, I wrote an article in the newsletter I edit
that it was pretty likely that the U.S. financial system wasn't going
to implode. After the roaring eighties peaked around 1989, the U.S.
economy fell into stagnation, and bank failures and bankruptcies
reached frightening proportions. Since by most ordinary measures, the
financial structure was as bad as or worse than 1929's, it wasn't at
all alarmist to fear the worst.
But George Bush's government came up with hundreds of billions (no
one really knows for sure how many) to save the wrecked savings
loan industry, and Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve pushed real
interest rates down to 0% and kept them there for years. State action
saved capital from itself, and I thought it was time to say that
there would be no second Depression. Saying so evoked a fair amount
of mail and phone calls, ranging from those expressing concern about
my sanity to those expressing outright hostility.
Last fall, I said pretty much the same thing about the Asian
financial crisis - that, thanks to state intervention (mainly an
indulgent U.S. Fed and the ministrations of the IMF), the worst of
the 1997-98 melodrama was probably behind us. I made it clear that I
didn't think the worst was over for the workers and peasants of Asia
- - just that the systemic meltdown of the global financial system was
looking pretty unlikely. This too evoked reactions similar to 1992's
I recount this not to brag about my prescience; I've made lots of bad
calls in my life too, though they're a lot less pleasant to think
about. One of those bad calls was to take the 1987 stock market crash